Monthly Archives: June 2015

Cook County Property Taxes Increasing & 3 Hard Truths

Cook County Property Tax Increase 2015Cook County property tax bills are expected to be released on July 1, 2015. According to the Chicago Tribune, they’re expected to go up by $90 per home on average. Here’s how the increase stacks up based upon what township you’re located in:

  • Chicago: property taxes on a home with a market value of $199,000 will increase $90 from $3,237 in 2014 to $3,327
  • Northern Cook County suburbs: property taxes on homes with a market value of $263,000 will rise to about $6,544 from $6,389
  • Southern Cook County suburbs: property taxes will go down about $51 on average, so the bill on a $163,000 home will be about $4,850 this year from $4,901 in 2014
  • Individual bills in specific suburbs will vary according to Cook County Clerk David Orr
  • As always, a variety of homeowner tax exemptions are available

Three Hard Truths

Property taxes have not declined on every home in Southern Cook County. In the words of The Daily Southtown, “Property values declined in the south suburbs, but property tax rates went up and some of the poorest communities in the Southland continue to have the highest property tax rates in Cook County… The highest composite suburban property tax rate in all of Cook County… belongs to Ford Heights at 38.45%. The market value of an average home in that suburb is $26,500 and the average property tax paid is $1,894… The lowest suburban property tax rate is in Barrington, 7.1%… where the average home value is $320,000 and the average tax $5,735.”

Additionally, what’s more concerning to many is how Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will plug the $1 billion budget Chicago Public School pension shortfall. Many expect further Cook County property tax increases next year.

Lastly, Cook County Board President Preckwinkle wants to increase the sales tax by 1% to 10.25%, making it one of the highest in the nation. New York City’s rate is 8.875% and San Francisco’s is 8.75%. Between increased property and sales taxes, the total tax burden in the Chicago metro area is becoming one of the highest in the country.

Property Tax Appeals

All of the above are even more reasons to appeal your property taxes. Doing so is the only way to ensure that you pay only your fair share and not a penny more. If you don’t appeal your property taxes, you’re probably paying more than you have to.

Contact us for a free, no obligation property tax appeal estimate

What Is a Property Tax Assessment?

What is a property tax assessment?Because what you pay in property taxes is usually in the thousands, it’s important to understand what a property tax assessment is and how to ensure that it’s fair.

Why You Pay Property Taxes

Counties use property taxes to fund local school districts, police and fire departments, water reclamation districts, libraries, park districts, forest preserves, mosquito abatement districts, etc.

Each year, the county determines the revenue they need to fund the budgets of all of the taxing bodies mentioned above. The county assessor determines the value of your home as of January 1st of the tax year. In Cook County, residential property is assessed at 10% of the value of your home. This is your property tax assessment. Learn more about how property taxes are assessed here.

What you owe in property taxes is calculated by taking your equalized assessed value and multiplying it by the tax rate determined by your county, minus exemptions. If you live in Cook County, see if you qualify for any tax exemptions here.

Paying a “Fair” Amount of Property Taxes on Time

As with paying income taxes, paying property taxes on time is important so that you do not incur penalties, fines and liens on your home – such as those who improperly claim a homeowner exemption and who are now being actively pursued by Cook County.

How do you know if your property taxes are assessed fairly or if you would be a strong candidate for a reduction? While you can conduct your own research and do it yourself, your best bet is often working with an experienced property tax appeal service.

Contact us to learn more about our property tax appeal service

Cook County Notice of Discovery: Who’s Responsible & Not

Cook County Assessor Notice of DiscoveryMany homeowners are unaware that a law referred to as “Erroneous Exemptions Statute” was recently passed allowing Cook County to go after property owners that have erroneously claimed homeowner exemptions in past years. This blog post will help you understand if this law applies to you and what to do (or not to do) about it. Stay calm and read on…

Cook County Assessor, Joseph Berrios, has attracted a lot of press about this and his office has begun mailing out Notice of Discovery letters to homeowners en masse. We’ve had multiple, innocent Cook County property owners contact us deeply concerned about receiving such a letter, and justifiably so.

Who’s Responsible?

If you own a property in Cook County, do not live there but claimed the homeowner’s exemption on your property taxes between 2011 and 2014, then you are liable under the Erroneous Exemptions Statute. If you own a home in Cook County and your spouse owns one in DuPage County, and you are both claiming homeowner’s exemptions, then you are liable under the Erroneous Exemptions Statute. If you erroneously claimed 3 or more homeowner’s exemptions, then the County can seek reimbursement from you of the savings you received going back six years to 2008.

Prior to the enactment of the Erroneous Exemptions Statute, there wasn’t a law in place allowing Cook County to take action against the recipients of erroneous exemptions. Now the county has three years in which to conduct an investigation from the date the taxpayer is served with the notice. Notice recipients that do nothing and are found in violation, will receive a Notice of Intent to Record a Lien and will likely be on the hook for the amount of the exemptions due, plus interest (10% per annum), penalties (50% of tax due) and administrative costs.

If You’re Not in Violation, How Could this Happen?

As pointed out on the Niles Township Assessor’s website, the process that the Cook County Assessor’s office has used to identify potential violators of the Erroneous Exemptions Statute appears to have been over-inclusive, meaning they appear to have sent notices out to many taxpayers that are not in violation. How could this happen? A substantial number of properties in Cook County have more than one property identification number (PINs) associated with the property, which could lead to a false positive for a taxpayer claiming a homeowner’s exemption on both PINs. The blog post also noted that one of their constituent taxpayers received two Notice of Discovery letters: one for each of the two deeded condominium parking spaces that they own. Neither of those parking spaces has a homeowner exemption, nor should they trigger a violation of the Erroneous Exemptions Statute, but they appear to have been flagged as other residential properties owned by the same taxpayer. The Assessor’s Office does state in the Notice of Discovery letters that we have seen: “Receipt of this notice does not mean that the taxpayer has been found to have an exemption they are not entitled to.” However the apparent over-inclusiveness of the searches used by the Assessor’s office in generating these letters is unfortunate because it has scared many taxpayers who have not violated the Erroneous Exemptions Statute and has now placed the burden on those taxpayers to prove their compliance.

Violation or Not: What to Do about It?

If you are not in violation, then the Niles Assessor recommends that you do nothing and that the Cook County Assessor’s Office needs to prove you are guilty. Alternatively, if you haven’t appealed your property taxes before for your home, now is a great time to do so as it may provide a forum for addressing an improperly issued Notice of Discovery letter.

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